Universal Principles of drumming & of music making:

At the deepest, most basic level, good drumming, indeed all good music making, depends on these things:

  1. Good time
  2. Good tone
  3. Awareness of what is happening within and around you (your mind)
  4. Your intentions (your heart)

Furthermore, there are common principles of sound production, as noted by John Bergamo, in his video 'The Art & Joy of Hand Drumming':

  1. A relaxed way of playing, of "throwing" the hand, using the
    weight of the hand.
  2. use of varied striking areas
  3. use of "open" or ringing and "closed" or dampened strokes
  4. Rhythmic variety expressed through different fingerings,
    because different fingers/groupings have a different sound

In all the traditions, extensive practice is required to gain access to higher skills.

Breathe deeply, and stay relaxed. Regarding posture, whether standing or sitting, always keep your head, heart and hips in a vertical line.

and, borrowed from Orff but ever so true; how do you spell drum?







The Dallas 'Gifted Magnet' Arts Retreat
review by Eric Stuer

(Click on the images for bigger versions)

The magnet high school for Gifted/Exceptional students here in Dallas has a yearly 3 day retreat at a camp south of town. The kids break up into groups of 12, including a teacher, and study the various aspects of their theme for that year, then they get together and give presentations to the student body, showing what they've learned.

This year (September 6-8, 2001) the theme was based on how different cultures express themselves through various arts disciplines. Among other things, they looked at architchture, drama, jewelry making... and drumming. I was honored to be invited by Dr. Rebecca Jensen to help with the drumming group.

I only aided them in the initial stages, at the beginning of the first day. I was to bring them some drums, discuss universal principles of drumming, notably the ones common to all cultures, and spend a couple of hours helping them brain storm for hands on possibilities. Then it was entirely up to them and their teacher to form a presentation over the next two days.

I brought them a big batch of instruments from various cultures, including tamborine, pandeiro, kanjira, doumbek, djembe, dhol, conga, cuica, cajon, etc.

The rain was pouring down that day, September 6, so we used more Mylar heads than we would have otherwise. Instead of a djun djun, we used a big 18" floor tom with a bell on a stand..To my delight, the kids leapt into it, every one of them ready to go. They learned very quickly.

We touched briefly on the origins and characteristics of the instruments and talked about universal musical principles before sitting down in a circle and beginning to play.

We had to adapt quickly. With only 2 hours to get the whole thing rolling, there was little time to focus on the many differences between congas, ashikos, the REMO asongas, the djembe.. We worked with two basic sounds from these drums: bass and tone, Gun amd Go. Once again, the beginner rhythms taught to me by Baba Olatunji in his 3 day workshop proved to be great starter material. Thanks Baba O. We let the djembe play the calls, and put congas and asongas on these two rhythms repectively:

(G=Gun, g,d=go,do)

1. G.gd..G.gd..

2. G.gdgdG.....

Tamborines and shekere joined together to simply play the pulse..their cutting power made them naturals for the task. Luckily, the students playing these instruments had a strong sense of time, so it became easier for all. The kids quickly learned to rumble at many dynamic levels, start and end and rumble on call, play several basic rhythms and switch from one to another, and do a little call and response. We ran through the possible techniques 10 or 12 more times, the bell rang, and my part was done. Now it was up to them to choose their instruments and plan their presentation. Back to town I went, leaving the instruments behind.

Stage 2 - the practice - I went back to Dallas. Dr. Jensen had taken good notes and listened well, and we passed the task of leading the group, playing the calls and so on, from me to her. There were three more practice sessions, each the length of the first, about two hours, and during this time, they planned and executed what they wanted to show in the final presentation. I'm still learning more from Dr. Jensen about the way they arrived at it, but suffice it to say that the team proved up to the task.

Stage 3 - The presentation - I learned afterwards that the presentation had gone well. The event was a success. A video was made of it, and perhaps we'll get a version up here soon..Click on this presentation shot below for a better view.

My heartfelt thanks go to Dr. Jensen, to the faculty and staff at the Dallas Magnet High School for Gifted and Exceptional Students, and hats off to the kids in the drumming group for their resourceful and energetic attitudes. I had a wonderful time, and was very proud of the job they all did, especially given the time restrictions.


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